What we saw from Stevie Johnson in Saturday night's exhibition against the Seattle Seahawks, the connection with Rivers that the Chargers hope to see so much this season, was borne in May and June and rekindled in August.
On the Chargers’ first possession, Johnson suddenly darted left, pulling away from the safety covering him in the slot to make a 34-yard reception-and-run that converted a third down. Before leaving with the rest of the first-team offense at halftime, Johnson had two more third-down conversions and finished with four receptions for 64 yards.
That is what replacing Eddie Royal looks like.
There is great potential in the marrying of Johnson’s ability to separate combined with Rivers’ ability to throw receivers open. When Rivers develops a rapport with a target, he anticipates where that receiver will be and makes connections that seemingly should never happen.
From 2010 to 2012, Johnson was one of the most consistent receivers in football, posting at least 76 catches, 1,004 yards and six touchdowns in three straight seasons. In PPR formats, he was the #10, #16 and #18 receiver in those seasons. The Chargers lost Eddie Royal, so there are targets to be had, especially with TE Antonio Gates suspended for the first four games. Johnson is having a good camp, so it appears that he’ll play ahead of retiring wideout Malcom Floyd.
Chargers beat writer Eric D. Williams: Stevie Johnson signed with the Chargers in free agency to help fill the void left by Eddie Royal's departure, and so far has looked rejuvenated in San Diego’s offensive system. Johnson’s developed a good rapport with Philip Rivers and will be used both in the slot and on the perimeter. He has a shot at 50 receptions and at least four touchdowns.
We project Johnson for 54-755-5.2 as the Chargers' WR2. From 2010 to 2012, he was one of the most consistent receivers in football, posting at least 76 catches, 1,004 yards and six touchdowns in three straight seasons. In PPR formats, he was the #10, #16 and #18 receiver in those seasons. The Chargers lost Eddie Royal, so there are targets to be had, especially with TE Antonio Gates suspended for the first four games.
Bears beat writer Jeff Dickerson: Eddie Royal's value just skyrocketed in the wake of Kevin White's potentially season-ending shin injury. Royal can play all three wide receiver positions and he has a built-in relationship with Jay Cutler. I’d be surprised if Royal doesn’t exceed the numbers he put up last year in San Diego (62-778-7).
Last year, Royal was the #31 receiver in PPR formats and he's currently the 45th receiver off the board in the late 9th round. Royal is slated to fill the WR2 role for the Bears for at least the first six weeks (probably longer) with Kevin White sidelined with a stress fracture. In fact, White's season is reportedly in jeopardy, so Royal could potentially start the entire year. He finished in the top 40 in each of the last two seasons, and was the #16 fantasy receiver as a rookie in Denver (91-980-5). Who threw him the ball that year? Jay Cutler.
Add Eddie Royal to the list of the walking wounded among Bears receivers. Royal missed Wednesday's practice at Halas Hall with a hip injury, further depleting the offense of playmakers and causing yet another round of shuffling as the Bears ready for Saturday night's exhibition game in Cincinnati.
Coach John Fox stamped his standard "day to day" label on Royal. But that, of course, means very little. When training camp began, the Bears referred to Kevin White as "day to day" with a shin injury. White, however, may now be lost for the season after having surgery this weekend to repair a stress fracture in his left shin.
Said quarterback Jay Cutler: "I've never been a part of anything like that — all four (top receivers) going down like that. It's a great opportunity for these (other) guys and it's given me an opportunity to work with them and do some hands-on stuff with them."
Alshon Jeffery has been "day to day" with a calf strain since Aug. 12 and was still not back at practice on Wednesday. Marquess Wilson also did not practice, dealing with a hamstring issue. So if you're keeping count, the Bears' top four receivers are now unavailable. Next men up: Josh Bellamy, Marc Mariani, Rashad Lawrence and Cam Meredith.
Inside the team, however, business continued as usual. After all, the Bears have been practicing without White since his stress fracture was first detected in mid-June.
Now that White's chances of playing in 2015 seem dim, Bears receivers have a clearer sense of their challenge in replacing his contribution.
Veteran Eddie Royal, who signed as a free agent in March, was likely to be a starter regardless of White's health. The Bears like him as a slot receiver because of his suddenness and ability to gain yards after the catch. Without White, though, he could play more outside.
Royal came into the league with the Broncos in 2008 playing outside and has done so throughout his career.
"I've been trying to learn the whole system just so if anything happens that I'll be able to step in and play wherever," he said after Sunday's practice. "We've got a number of guys that are doing that."
With Alshon Jeffery also a bit banged up, chances are good Royal at least gets some practice on the outside in camp. If Jeffery is fine, as expected, third-year receiver Marquess Wilson is another one who can play on the outside. Wilson wowed the crowd Sunday with a leaping catch on a deep throw down the right sideline from Jay Cutler. It's possible with Wilson around, Royal continues to play in the slot, but the news here is because of injuries, Royal may have a little more fantasy value than we've been used to him having during his time with the Chargers.
There's a belief throughout the Bears organization that the eighth-year veteran WR Eddie Royal could ignite the offense, a potential blowtorch to the wick of a unit that knows it has more firepower than it showed a year ago, when it finished 21st in the NFL in total yards (327.1 per game) and 23rd in scoring (19.9 ppg).
"Eddie's one of the smartest guys around," Alshon Jeffery adds. "He has a knack for this game and a feel for the right places to be at the right times."
Quarterback Jay Cutler shows similar excitement when he describes Royal's versatility and savvy. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase expresses unabashed optimism when he thinks of all the ways Royal's presence should loosen defenses. General manager Ryan Pace exudes positivity when he considers Royal just might be the offseason acquisition that pays the biggest dividends in 2015.
With a Chicago offense offering up a little more skill than San Deigo's, Royal may have a better chance to put up more consistent fantasy numbers as a forgotten man. Royal was hit and miss last year, having a big week or two which always seemed followed by a clunker. That's been the case for Royal with the Chargers though. Royal is 55th on our list and has deep league potential at least. He's perhaps a late-round option to take a chance on producing more consistent fantasy numbers.
Although Bears WR Kevin White garners most of the attention because of his draft status, don't be surprised if Eddie Royal turns out to be the more impactful of the two offseason receiver acquisitions. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase can deploy Royal from a variety of alignments in order to maximize matchups. Royal, 29, can play outside and in the slot. Think of how Gase used Wes Welker with the Broncos the last two seasons — he was a quick, reliable outlet for quarterback Peyton Manning — but also factor in Royal's superior speed and ability to gain yards after the catch.
Royal has been a fantasy headache for years, and now he takes his act to Chicago. White needs to have a good camp to earn a starting job. Royal is likely to serve as the team's slot receiver, where he could siphon targets from the rookie.
Via Blair Sheade of the Chicago Sun-Times, Jay Cutler gathered several teammates at his alma mater of Vanderbilt this week for extra pre-training camp workouts.
Bennett’s presence is significant because he stayed away from all non-mandatory offseason activities in search of a new contract. Most significant is the fact that Cutler managed to get his teammates to join him in Tennessee for non-mandatory workouts that fall beyond the boundaries of the offseason program.
It's a good sign that Cutler is working with his receivers, especially White, who missed some time during OTAs with an undisclosed injury. Cutler’s #15 finish was his highest in the last four seasons. Marc Trestman is gone, and now new OC Adam Gase is running the offense. He had success in Denver in the past two seasons, but Cutler is no Peyton Manning. As long as the season is going relatively well, Cutler should post solid numbers, but if the wheels start to come off, watch out.
Royal got off to a fast start in his first year, catching 91 passes for 980 yards and five touchdowns while Jay Cutler was throwing for a career-high 4,526 yards en route to the only Pro Bowl appearance of his career.
It was the only year that the two men worked together, but both remember it fondly and Royal says they’re putting in the same work now that they did then to build the same chemistry.
Bears WR Marquess Wilson is still in the mix, even though Chicago drafted Kevin White No. 7 overall. Because White missed the final week of practice, Wilson received increased reps with the first and second teams. HC John Fox seems impressed by Wilson, who suffered a broken collarbone in training camp last year that derailed his sophomore season.
Bears WR Eddie Royal is a rare breed. He is smart and talented enough to do the dirty work on the underneath routes, but fast enough to catch a slant and take it to the house. It’s hard to remember the last time Chicago had such a versatile receiver on the roster.
Rookie receiver Kevin White was held out of the entire minicamp this week with what John Fox indicated was an undisclosed medical issue. The Bears coach, however, said he fully expects White on the field for the first training camp practice July 30.
"Kevin is doing a good job for us, picking up the offense," Cutler said. "He has a bright future."
An undisclosed injury kept White out of the Bears' minicamp practice Tuesday, coach John Fox indicated.
This raises a few eyebrows at 4for4 headquarters, but we still expect White to start opposite Alshon Jeffery. It's a reminder that rookies carry extra risk since their roles are not defined, especially early in the summer.
ESPN's Mike Sando:
Eddie Royal's resurgence over the past two seasons and his early grasp of the Bears' new offense has him in great position to play a prominent role right away. The staff seemed excited about him when I visited Bears camp earlier in the offseason. Royal has 10 red zone touchdowns over the past two seasons, tied for ninth in the league among wide receivers.
Royal could continue to be a headache for fantasy owners. He's production tends to be spotty and comes in bunches, which makes it difficult to know when to use him. There's also the possibility that he draws targets away from Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, Martellus Bennett and/or Matt Forte.
A proper farewell tour for Malcom Floyd can now begin.
The Chargers wide receiver reaffirmed Tuesday he will retire after the 2015 season. This long has been the plan for Floyd, who will turn 34 in September and is entering the final year of his contract.
Stevie Johnson’s arrival may put a dent in Floyd’s targets (92 in 2014), but Johnson was brought in mainly to replace the departed Eddie Royal (91 targets), so Floyd should continue to post solid numbers. He was the 72nd receiver drafted last season and finished the season in the #40 spot. Don’t be surprised if he repeats those numbers, though due to his somewhat spotty big play tendencies, he’s better suited for best ball formats than standard leagues.
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